But wars are so easy to get into.
The US evacuation from Afghanistan is winding down to meet tomorrow's deadline to get all US troops out of the country, as set by President Biden. The giant C-17 transport planes are still flying out of Kabul's airport, but compared to the massive airlifts of last week, the US announced this morning that it had evacuated just 1,200 people in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total since the end of July to 122,300 evacuees. 116,700 of those evacuations occurred after August 14, when Kabul fell to the Taliban.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement this morning that while the evacuation efforts by the US, the EU, and nongovernmental organizations has been "praiseworthy," the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is only beginning:
"Around 3.5 million people have already been displaced by violence within the country – more than half a million since the start of this year," said Grandi.
"Most have no regular channels through which to seek safety. And in the midst of a clear emergency, with millions in dire need of help, the humanitarian response inside Afghanistan is still desperately underfunded," he added.
Grandi noted that some 2.2 million registered refugees are living in camps in Pakistan and Iran, many of them having been there for years. He noted that while the airlifts will soon no longer be on TV, the tragedy in Afghanistan "will still be a daily reality for millions of Afghans. We must not turn away. A far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning." [UNHCR]
US Drone Stopped Likely Attack, Killed 10 Civilians
A US drone strike in Kabul Sunday destroyed a car bomb that the U.S. Central Command said had been an "imminent" threat of being used in another attack on the Kabul airport. The missile strike was followed by "secondary " explosions that indicated it was a car bomb, but the attack also killed 10 members of a family living nearby, including seven children, the New York Times reports. One of the adults who died worked with an aid organization, another was a former Afghan army officer and contractor for the US military; both had hoped to be evacuated with their families by the US military. Of course ten deaths is not as terrible as another attack that might have killed hundreds, but it's still horrifying. [NYT]
In a briefing today, Pentagon spokeperson John Kirby said the "threat stream" against the Kabul airport "is still real. It's still active, and, in many cases, it's still specific," and that US forces are "taking it very seriously and we will right up until the end." He also said that there had been rocket attacks aimed toward the airport, but that no one at the airport had been harmed. [CNN]
UN Security Council To Call For Safe Passage
The UN Security Council is expected to approve a resolution this afternoon calling for safe passage for people trying to leave Afghanistan, as well as the establishment of a "safe passage area" at the Kabul airport for people trying to leave the airport itself after the last US plane departs. The resolution was proposed by the UK and France; it's not yet clear whether Russia and China are entirely on board yet, though. [CNN]
Escapes from Afghanistan by land may be difficult; Uzbekistan has now closed its border with Afghanistan, and the country is only allowing planes from Afghanistan to land there if they're in transit to somewhere else. Uzbekistan is not accepting any Afghan refugees. [CNN]
Pakistan's interior minister said in a news conference today that his country hasn't "given refugee status to a single person since Kabul fell," and also says that while "500 to 600" people flown out of Afghanistan are at the Islamabad airport on "special 21 day transit visas," they're all expected to be flown elsewhere by sponsoring nations and organizations. [CNN]
The US and 97 other countries — a bit over half the countries in the world — have issued a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to take in Afghan refugees, and that they will continue issuing travel permission to people trying to leave Afghanistan after tomorrow. Whether the Taliban will allow them to leave remains the question, although the joint statement cited a "clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban" of safe passage. For everything that's worth. [NYT]
The Flights Are Winding Down
American troops performed a "controlled detonation" Friday of the last CIA base left in Afghanistan, near the Kabul airport. [NYT]
Since last week's suicide bombing outside the airport, which killed at least 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US service members, very few Afghans have been allowed through the airport gates as the military prepares to leave, although the Washington Post notes that "A U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said there had been no policy decision to exclusively admit American citizens." So it appears to be just an unofficial policy of leaving Afghans to fend for themselves.
The WaPo comments are full of people explaining this is all fine, because if people really had wanted to get out they could have, it's not our job to take care of everyone in the world, if Afghans want a better place to live they should take up arms and fight the Taliban (including, presumably, the children who have been separated from their parents in the chaos), and besides, if Biden had started evacuating Afghans who helped the US any earlier, like right after he announced the US withdrawal, the Afghan military would just have collapsed earlier and it would have been just as bad.
At least the actual reporting includes non-monstrous people like Sunil Varghese, policy director for the International Refugee Assistance Project, who told the Post,
"We're leaving allied Afghans and potentially Americans behind." [...] He praised members of the military and civil society groups for their efforts to help Afghans vulnerable to Taliban reprisal depart the country but said the Biden administration should have begun its evacuation effort far earlier.
"I'm just disappointed that it was so late and so dangerous and so difficult," Varghese said. "We could've done better."
Some of the Afghans still trying to get onto US planes include holders of green cards, and dependents or close relatives of American citizens. Others have visas to go to European countries.
One of the Afghan military's elite commandos, who have worked closely with the United States, said he had been trying to get the attention of U.S. officials for days to appeal for assistance getting out.
"We cannot reach our U.S. mentors in order to help us," he said in an email, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing Taliban attention. "We need an emergency evacuation like the other Afghan soldiers, but we cannot get inside the Kabul airport unless we have some supporting documents or recommendations directly from inside the airport."
The Taliban has been calling him, he said.
"I don't know how long I can continue this."
We don't know whether a more orderly advance evacuation could have been planned, but at a gut level, it sure feels like it should have. [WaPo]
To be sure, during the Trump administration, much of the delay in processing visas for Afghans who worked with the US was allegedly the work of Stephen Miller, who may have fucked up the system beyond repair, despite Biden administration efforts to speed up the process since taking it over. [MSNBC]
In a Fox News interview Sunday, Miller himself offered a bizarre defense of the glacial pace of processing visas for Afghan allies:
"Have we forgotten so quickly the 9/11 terrorists were granted visas by our State Department?" he shouted. "Have we forgotten so quickly that all that blood was shed because we weren't able to secure our own immigration system? Now we're going to repeat these mistakes again?"
Yes, all those 9/11 hijackers who had been cleared to assist US troops by military intelligence, that was a thing that happened and a good analogy.
In response to a call by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the US should admit all the roughly 200,000 Afghans thought to have connections to the American military and government, Miller very calmly lost his shit and went straight to hyperbole, claiming that if Biden had his way, he'd admit "40 million" Muslims from around the world because Biden is "clinically insane."
This open-ended obligation to take up every one of the 40 million people who would prefer to live here than under Sharia law is clinically insane! And we will rue the day that we made that decision.
And then a literal straw man fell on Miller, causing him to tumble down a slippery slope into a vat of red herring, the end. [Salon]
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It's your Sunday show rundown!
Ever since President Joe Biden decided to follow through with the end of the war in Afghanistan, one already negotiated by the previous administration, we've had no shortage of armchair quarterbacks criticizing the decision. As the August 31 deadline approaches, it seems all the warhawks came to the Sunday shows to either request for forever war or criticize our exit strategy.
On CBS' "Face The Nation," political remora Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina decided to honor his last two long-term relationships with Donald Trump & the late John McCain. For McCain, Graham advocated for John's true love (foreign wars) when asked what he would have done differently than Biden.
GRAHAM: Well, number one, I wouldn't have withdrawn. I would have kept the counterterrorism forces on the ground. [...]
Graham channelled his war boner so much, it removed his ability to coherently spit out the soundbite he practiced all night.
GRAHAM: But let me tell you where I think we're at. This is a cata...catamalystic...a cat... just a fair beyond my ability to describe it.
Graham then decided to give some very late advice.
GRAHAM: [...] First thing we need to do is not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
That's some sage advice you maybe should have given Trump and Mike Pompeo when they made this deal with the Taliban, Lindsey.
But Graham saved his dumbest critique of Biden for doing what the majority of Americans wanted by calling for his impeachment again.
GRAHAM: [...] He deserves a lot of accountability for this. And I'm sure it will be coming.
O'KEEFE: Senator, one thing, one word I don't hear you using is one you were using before the attack on Thursday, and that is you called for his impeachment over Afghanistan. Do you still feel he should be impeached--
GRAHAM: Yeah, I think--
O'KEEFE: --over this?
GRAHAM: Yeah. Yeah, I think it's dereliction of duty [...]
After all the derelictions of EVERY presidential duty and the failure to impeach Trump, we really don't need to hear this pearl clutching from Lindsey Graham. But take this as warning: Republicans will make this their new Benghazi and impeach Biden, whether rightfully or wrongfully, if they get power again. On "Fox News Sunday,” Senate Minority Leader and turtle/human hybrid Mitch McConnell also advocated for forever war.
MCCONNELL: Yes, I think what's been lost in all of this, Chris, is why we went there in the first place. We went there to prevent the Taliban from having a regime that would allow terrorists to reconstitute themselves and hit us again here at home. It's been a total success.
I mean ... 20 years of training the Afghan military and they disintegrated instantly kinda proves it wasn't a "total success," Mitch.
But any worry Republicans might listen to McConnell went away when he broke from their narrative to say something true about COVID-19.
MCCONNELL: You know, I'm kind of reluctant to give governors advice about how they ought to carry out their responsibilities during the pandemic, but I do think it's important to remember that 90 percent of the people in the hospitals are unvaccinated. So the answer to this is get vaccinated. If we could keep saying that over and over and over again, I think that's the key to this. This is a crisis among unvaccinated Americans who seem to be reluctant to believe that vaccination works. It does.
I guess McConnell occasionally tells the truth like he would win a race with a hare: slow and steady.
On Fox News
"MAGA POWER HOUR" "Sunday Morning Futures," host Maria Bartiromo proves she doesn't understand the constitution as she cites Senator Rick Scott from Florida to see if Kevin McCarthy can invoke the 25th Amendment (Spoiler: He can't):
Representative Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina tried the same 25th Amendment stunt:
BREAKING: I just formally requested the U.S. Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment. Joe Biden does not simply have a p… https://t.co/xNAFvKt1V4— Rep. Madison Cawthorn (@Rep. Madison Cawthorn) 1630024601.0
We conclude today on CNN's "State Of The Union", where host Jake Tapper decided to invite a pair of bipartisan assclowns: Representatives Seth Moulton from Massachusetts and Peter Meijer from Michigan. Tapper decided to platform and give the pair the exact attention they wanted, without pushback, for their unsanctioned and unscheduled political stunt trip to Kabul. When Tapper asked Moulton the only vaguely critical question of the entire segment, Moulton showed what a joke he is.
Rep. Seth Moulton on criticism of his trip to Afghanistan: "At the end of the day, I don't care what pundits in Was… https://t.co/4MhdfOt4EW— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1630244306.0
TAPPER: You must know how furious so many of your colleagues are, as well as people in the Pentagon and the Biden administration, about the trip. They say you diverted resources needing to protect the evacuation just two days before the terrorist attack there. Congressman Moulton, how do you respond?
MOULTON: Lookit, those accusations are just not true. But, Jake, at the end of the day, I don't care what pundits in Washington are saying.[…]
Yeah, except they DID divert resources and 13 US service members were killed less than 24 hours after your stupid-ass attention-seeking trip. It's unbelievable to see the lack of understanding from Moulton and Meijer how their useless appearance in Kabul wasted time, money and attention from a critical war-ending evacuation EVEN after the loss the following day of the very people who kept them safe.
Have a week.
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He's never gonna be president.
Mike Pompeo is what happens when you have the warmongering of Henry Kissinger with one-fourth the evil competence. But his heat-seeking to be the next Trump-wannabe in 2024 might be derailed by his monstrous incompetence.
As detailed by William Saletan of Slate, Pompeo has been trying to see if he can lie like a common Nikki Haley about how safe Afghanistan was when he was the one negotiating with the Taliban despite the disastrous consequences we are currently experiencing.
Appearing on Maria Bartiromo's Fox News show "Sunday Morning Futures," Mike Pompeo lied about it on Sunday for the
second week in a row.
Pompeo played all his hits:
There were the dogwhistles:
POMPEO: [Biden] is more focused on spending three and half trillion dollars on creating 'diversity' inside of our military ...
He waxed about the marvelous deal he made:
POMPEO: Remember this Maria: From the time we began our "peace and reconciliation," our conversations ... from the time we signed that deal in February 2020 ... not a single American was attacked by the Taliban in a serious way and there wasn't a single American killed.
Yeah, well, once we told them we'd leave immediately if they just stopped attacking us (mostly), we guess they were OK with that.
Pompeo also attempted to say our allies don't trust us, as if to imply they'd like it better if Trump was still the sheriff. You bet.
POMPEO: You need [...] only to go to the British Parliament or listen to Macron or Merkel. [...] All of them are concerned that they no longer can trust America as a partner and ally.
Of course, one only has to look at news articles from Trump's four years to see how our allies actually felt while Trump was being pen-pals with Kim Jong-un or defending Vladimir Putin or defending Prince Bonesaw of Saudi Arabia. Pompeo's sudden concern for Emmanuel Macron or Angela Merkel or the British Parliament might not be authentic!
But as, MSNBC's Medhi Hansan tweeted, the receipts are all archived and wont be easily forgotten:
As Afghanistan falls further into chaos, the many decision by Pompeo that led here become starker. Slate detailed numerous articles, interviews, and statements showing Pompeo's hypocrisy like the video above. They also highlighted moments like one on March 5, 2020, when Pompeo responded to criticism by making excuses for the Taliban:
We have seen the senior Taliban leadership working diligently to reduce violence from previous levels [...]
Or when he told Fox News's Pete Hegseth on March 6, 2020, he was willing let Kabul fall:
HEGSETH: I mean, we're not going to intervene ultimately two, three years from now if the Afghan Government can't defend itself. This is an Afghan issue.
POMPEO: That's right. [...]
When in the same “Fox & Friends" interview it was pointed out that the Taliban was not meeting its agreement, as similar violence to what's being seen now was already occurring then, Pompeo minimized it by calling it "common" in Afghanistan.
POMPEO: And your point about violence, violence is actually significantly down. The American people don't think – spend much time thinking about the fact that on an average day over the last years there have been between 80 and a hundred violent incidents across Afghanistan. This is common. This is recurring. It is a difficult place.
Pompeo's Dunning-Krueger inspired narcissism and disdain for anyone questioning his moves could be seen back when the House Foreign Affairs Committee was asking very relevant questions about this whole "negotiating with the Taliban as if they are part of the Afghan government thus undermining the actual government there."
I agreed w/ the Trump Admin that there was no military solution to Afghanistan. Unfortunately, my concerns with the… https://t.co/rI5WRBrjYw— Rep. Colin Allred (@Rep. Colin Allred) 1629560127.0
Pompeo clearly stated then that they were "appraising" the Afghan government instead of including them as active participants. Watching Pompeo's smug arrogance in the face of legitimate concerns that were proven correct now is nauseating. It shows how little understanding Pompeo had as he opened the door of legitimacy for the Taliban as a co-equal part of Afghanistan's future.
It also reveals a simple truth of military occupations: The locals live there, the occupiers don't. They'll always be there after the occupiers are gone. It's why soon after our assistance and support was pulled, per the Pompeo-negotiated agreement, the Afghan military dissolved. Dying for a US-created government that no longer had US backing is like being a minimum wage mall cop dying to protect Mark Zuckerberg's barber.
As Slate concluded in their analysis:
The return of authoritarianism in Afghanistan is tragic. So are the latest atrocities: retributive executions, brutality against civilians, and the subjugation of women. The Biden administration misjudged how quickly the government would fall, and Biden misled Americans about what could happen. But nobody has lied more about the Afghan collapse than Pompeo. At every stage, he aided the Taliban and sabotaged the Kabul government. And now he dares to blame others.
The current whitewashing by Pompeo and others is actually very cynically straightforward. It's a bunch of self-interested scumbags trying to attain and hold on to power and relevance at the expense of real people's lives. So: Republicans.
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And Josh Hawley and Marsha Blackburn want in too.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, continuing his audition to be the GOP's official national weathervane, called for President Joe Biden to be impeached over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming that no other president in history has ever done anything so "dishonorable," and that leaving the Forever War would leave the US open to another "9/11." Graham said nothing at all about his favorite president ever, who brought us a 1/6 and a COVID-19.
Graham made the remarks in a Tuesday interview on NewsMax; that was two days before yesterday's horrific suicide bombings at the Kabul airport, which prompted other GOP senators to call for Biden to resign, be impeached, or just magically be replaced with Donald Trump, who would be so much better at this.
Should President Joe Biden be impeached? @LindseyGrahamSC: "I think [President Biden] should be impeached." https://t.co/P2Dv8tYf0l— Newsmax (@Newsmax) 1629858452.0
"This is the most dishonorable thing the commander-in-chief has done maybe in modern times," Graham said, which must be what he really believes, because he voted against conviction in both of Donald Trump's impeachment trials.
Just to be clear: Withdrawing the US from its longest war is dishonorable. Threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it helped Donald Trump smear a political opponent: Honorable. Inciting a deadly insurrection to overthrow the results of the 2020 election: Honorable as fuck.
Graham also claimed that with the US military leaving Afghanistan,
the likelihood of a 9/11 is through the roof now, because Al Qaeda and ISIS are coming after us. If you believe we've left Afghanistan and we've ended the war between the US and radical Islam, you're a fool. They're coming after us and Joe Biden has left us naked and blind in Afghanistan.
We should probably note that 1) at least officially, the US was never at war with a religion, and 2) Biden has emphasized that intelligence monitoring and possible military action against terrorist groups don't require the continuation of a losing war in a fractured country that never actually had a functional government.
While he was at it, Graham condemned Biden for potentially leaving behind thousands of Afghans who had helped the US, which is at least a real concern, although the US and its allies have so far managed to evacuate roughly 105,000 people (including US and European citizens). And we'd point out that while Graham opposed Donald Trump's abandonment of the Kurds in northern Syria in 2019, without any attempt at evacuating them, he not only didn't call for Trump to be impeached, he went on to say maybe it was a pretty genius move.
Yesterday's terrible suicide bombings outside the airport in Kabul killed at least 85 people; 13 American service members are known to have died, and the estimated number of Afghan civilians killed ranges from 72 (Reuters) to as many as 95 (AP/NBC News), with something like 100 injured as well. President Biden said yesterday that the attack would not deter the US from continuing to evacuate US citizens and Afghans escaping the Taliban, and that the US military will strike back at the Afghan branch of ISIS that says it carried out the bombings.
Following the attacks, two more Republican senators called for Biden to resign or to be impeached. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) issued a statement saying Biden must resign over his "catastrophic failure of leadership," although The Hill actually managed to find enough gumption to note that in April, Hawley had "vocalized support for removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan." (You know, kids, you can just say "said.")
Hey, remember when Ronald Reagan resigned after 241 Marines were killed in the 1983 truck bombing of their barracks in Beirut? Just pointing that out, not that we think Grenada needs to be invaded again.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn took things much farther in a deranged tweet in which she suggested the best solution to Biden's supposedly failed leadership would be for the US to have no leaders at all.
Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Antony Blinken, Lloyd Austin and General Milley should all resign or face impeachment and removal from office.— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@Sen. Marsha Blackburn) 1630003545.0
You see, if we had no president, vice president, secretary of State, secretary of Defense, or chair of the Joint Chiefs, then ISIS would really know it was in big trouble. Or maybe she thinks that if Biden and Harris step down, Donald Trump would magically become president again.
Weirdly, shortly before that call to decapitate American leadership, Blackburn had also tweeted that Joe Biden had better well follow up on his vow to counterattack against the terrorists, which might prove a tad difficult with no one in charge. Maybe she was just tacitly signaling her support for Nancy Pelosi's ability to defeat every army everywhere, plus a religion.
At least Lindsey Graham had a plan for how he'd handle the Forever War: if it were up to him, he'd keep it going forever.
If I was the president of the United States, I'd have told the Taliban to "Go to hell. We're going to stay here as long as it takes to get out people out." And if I were president of the United States, we'd have had soldiers in Afghanistan as long as it takes to keep America safe.
But you're not, Lindsey, you're not president of the United States.
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